What Do You Want to Do When You’re Happy?

I’ve been thinking about happiness lately. My hypothesis is that we don’t engage in destructive behavior when we’re happy. We don’t say, “I’m so happy, I think I’ll go eat a pint of ice cream,” or “I’m so happy, I think I’ll drink a bottle of wine,” or “I’m so happy, I think I’ll watch some mindless television.”

I don’t mean to say that wine and ice cream and television can’t be a part of happiness. Just that when we are happy, we eat a serving of ice cream or drink a glass of wine with great pleasure and gratitude. We watch television or other forms of entertainment because it is deepening our souls rather than keeping us up on the surface of our lives.

I thought about happiness when I listened to a segment of the Ted radio hour about addiction. Johann Hari talks about how addicts stop using drugs when they are meaningfully connected to other people. When they are happy (in a deep sense of that word), they are healthy.

So if we find ourselves in a pattern of living that isn’t healthy, that brings us to the surface of our lives, that feels good temporarily but leaves us feeling icky afterwards, maybe the answer isn’t punishing ourselves for the behavior, but rather, looking for ways to connect, to deepen, to seek out a deeper and more sustaining source of happiness.

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